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Prep Basketball: West’s Sherrill commits to Charlotte

By Ronnie Gallagher
rgallagher@salisburypost.com
Regardless of how many people he dunked on or shot over, regardless of how many people he dominated, somehow, some way, K.J. Sherrill stayed under the radar with the college recruiters for most of the summer.
“Some schools who I won’t mention wanted to him to stay there,” West Rowan basketball coach Mike Gurley said with a smile.
Then the 6-foot-7, skywalking Falcon went to Florida for the 17-and-under AAU national tournament.
Now, he’s off the radar.
Despite scholarship offers from Xavier and Auburn, among others, West’s rising senior committed Friday to Bobby Lutz and the Charlotte 49ers.
He’ll be joining the team for the 2009-10 season, and he won’t be the only 49er from Rowan County. Former Salisbury star Shamari Spears is sitting out this season after transferring from Boston College.
“I always looked forward to going to college,” said Sherrill, who has qualified academically. “Now, I have a home. I like the team. I like the coaches. They treat me right.”
Sherrill averaged 18.4 points for a 21-7 West team that made the sectional final last season. When summer arrived, so did a heavy AAU workload.
Sherrill played in a showcase tournament in Charlotte. He performed well in Dave Telep’s camp. But Gurley said many recruiters look at the big-name AAU teams first.
“K.J. didn’t get a lot of exposure because he wasn’t on one of those elite, traveling, Nike kind of teams,” Gurley said. “But he was so impressive in Florida, it blew his recruiting up. All of a sudden, people were saying, ‘Hey, this 6-7 kid can really play.’ ”
What opened the coaches eyes was a matchup against Rakeem Buckles, a Louisville recruit. Buckles, also 6-7, is listed as the nation’s 24th-best power forward and No. 74 overall, according to espn.com.”I wasn’t there, but K.J. apparently outplayed this guy,” Gurley said. “He was on the glass, he was scoring with jump shots and scoring off offensive rebounds.”
“He was big,” Sherrill recalled of Buckles, “but I’m big, too. I was ready to play the whole tournament.”
No, Gurley wasn’t there, but coaches who wanted Sherrill informed him.
“All of a sudden, my Verizon bill increased by 300 percent over the next month,” Gurley laughed.
One of the colleges working hard was Charlotte. An Atlantic 10 team, the 49ers won 20 games last season before losing in the first round of the NIT to Nebraska.
Lutz, a 1980 graduate of Charlotte, has local ties. He was once the head coach at Pfeiffer. In 10 years at Charlotte, he has eight postseason appearances, including five trips to the NCAA Tournament. Last year was his fifth 20-win season.
“Coach Lutz is second to none with X’s and O’s,” Gurley said. “He’s personable. He cares about his kids ó and K.J. felt that.”
Gurley likes that Charlotte is in “an airplane league.” Sherrill will fly to Philadelphia (St. Joe’s, Temple and La Salle); Washington, D.C., (George Washington); Cincinnati (Xavier); St. Louis (Saint Louis) and Pittsburgh (Duquesne).
“That’s big for a kid from Cleveland, North Carolina,” Gurley said.
UMass, Richmond, Dayton, Rhode Island, Fordham and Saint Bonaventure also play in the Atlantic 10.
“And Charlotte plays a very competitive nonconference schedule,” Gurley noted.
Gurley said Sherrill’s parents, Keith and Rhonda, were as excited about Charlotte as their son.
“K.J. was looking for a place that played big-time basketball with a great arena (Halton) that was part of a major university where he can expand himself as a man as much as a basketball player,” Gurley said. “Also, can his family be there to enjoy his time in college?”
The answer is yes.
“That had something to do with it,” Sherrill said.
The commitment just adds to the status of West Rowan basketball since Gurley took over in 1997. Scooter Sherrill and Donte Minter signed with ACC schools, while Phillip Williams played on national TV four times in the NCAA Tournament during his time at Winthrop. Junior Hairston, who was third-team all-CAA last year, returns for his senior season at Towson.
Sherrill just fits the mold.
“K.J. is a typical Sherrill,” said Gurley, who was gushing over Sherrill’s potential when he arrived on the scene as a 6-5 freshman. “He’s a good, young man off the basketball floor and on the basketball floor, and he does a good job in the classroom. You can’t ask a guy to do any better in all three areas of his life than he has.
“We’re tickled that we’ll get to watch him for four years.”

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